Review in Progress: Elden Ring


Posted on March 11, 2022 by Michael Merchant

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  • 10/10
    Total Score - 10/10
10/10

Summary

Elden Ring has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time!

Developer – FromSoftware Inc.

Publisher – Bandi Namco

Platforms – Playstation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Playstation 5, and Microsoft Windows (Reviewed)

I love watching fantasy movies such as Hallmark’s Merlin, The Neverending Story, Brotherhood of the Wolf, and Legend just to name a few. Honestly, these movies have shaped the way I feel about certain video games and the wanting of games to evoke similar feelings of my favorite films. This is why I love games like Morrowind, Dragon’s Dogma, Shadows of the Colossus, and course Demon’s Souls.

Games that thrust you into a world of mystery and fantasy and oftentimes let you shape your adventure. It’s common to miss things in these worlds and that is okay because when you pick it up again you might experience something you never have before the next time. There is something just magical about that experience and something that Elden Ring captures perfectly. It’s the game I have been waiting for since it was announced.

Elden Ring has so many moments of wonder and excitement! I can’t tell you the number of times I stopped dead in my tracks to look around and take in the surroundings and say to myself “Oh my god! What is that?! How do I get there?” As your progress through the game, the environments gain more verticality and unclear paths that can sometimes lead to unexpected but pleasant outcomes. You may think that you will find one thing but instead find a cave that takes you on a detour for an hour. These are welcome surprises that keep me engaged with the game.

In modern games, this gameplay loop is a much more directed experience. You will find an NPC, that says here at this place on your map is a cave where you will find X item or Y creature, come back to me when you are finished for my reward. While I don’t necessarily mind this experience, personally it is more rewarding to stumble upon a cave, have no idea what you will face inside, discover what is inside and then continue your journey wherever that may be. This is the majority of the adventure in Elden Ring. You know your primary quest and it is up to you to find everything else along the way.

This has been done before in games like Morrowind, but the spacing and pacing of Elden Ring refine the experience for modern gamers.

The following section is written by our deaf accessibility editor, Rebecca Ellis.

Elden Ring and Accessibility

The Souls games have always been peculiar for a deaf player such as myself. On the surface, they should be difficult and frustrating. Every time a skeleton would kick me off a cliff, or the times I’ve been bragged by an off-screen attack that I simply could not hear coming.

On the other hand, the Souls titles have been more accessible than most for two reasons. One, is the repetition and memorization. That skeleton may have kicked me off a cliff, but now I know that skeleton is there. The same goes for an off-screen attack, or a floor trap. Most titles in the open world are filled with random elements, and those elements make it very difficult for disabled gamers to wrap their hands around.

The second element has always been the co-op aspects. Many times I’ve had a friend drop into my game, or used summon stones right before a boss. These options aren’t typical in difficult third person action games, but I would not have been able to experience these titles with their absence.

Elden Ring has both of those elements, which is all the more impressive due to the open world of the Lands Between. The open world, is the new accessibility feature that truly makes this the best game in the series for players such as myself. The open world in Elden Ring, like review writer Michael mentions here, brings such freedom to the challenge. Now, if something is hard, I can merely walk away. I’m always discovering new areas or enemies to face. I’ve never been stuck on a section, and if a boss is difficult, summoning still performs perfectly in the open world.

Bravo to From Software for maintaining their vision, as even somebody such as myself benefits greatly from the creative freedom Elden Ring contains.

Back to our regular review!

From Software has taken all the best parts of their games and combined them to make Elden Ring, while also including new advances in the formula. The combat system is the style of Dark Souls with the movement of Sekiro, with the advancement of adding horse combat. Not only is your horse, Torrent, the primary means of transportation around the world, he is also great for combat.

Torrent allows you to make hits and runs on giant dragons or other enemies and you can easily dispatch them from your trusted companion. There were also several instances where I could see loot surrounded by enemies and I was able to ride up with Torrent and quickly steal the item and escape. Also, there are places that you simply just can’t reach without Torrent’s double jumping ability. It’s a fantastic addition to the formula!

Another feature that has been added to Elden Ring is the crafting system. As you explore the land you will find many different ingredients that can be used to craft consumables to make your journey that much easier. Now instead of having to rely on limited quantities or spending valuable runes (Formally known as Souls) to be able to enchant your weapon with fire or other elements, you can use your crafting prowess. To expand your repertoire of items that you can craft you will find books that you can purchase from traveling merchants and on corpses. This can come in handy for those adventures that tend to get themselves in sticky situations.

As with other Souls games you can, of course, upgrade your weapons and shields with upgrade stones and Elden Ring is no different. You can upgrade any of your favorite weapons to the staggering highest to help make even the worst of weapons viable. A change that was added however is Ashes of War. These items allow you to change the affinity of a weapon and how they scale with certain states while also changing the skill provided by a weapon or shield. Any non-unique weapon can have its skills changed at any time as you come across different Ashes of War.

For instance, the Uchigatana comes with the skill Unsheathe, this skill allows you to quickly draw your weapon in a vertical or horizontal direction and can provide a bit more distance than a normal attack. These skills require the use of FP which is equivalent to Mana. If you find a different Ashes of War that provides a different skill like the ability to stomp on the ground and create spikes of ice to scatter across the ground in front of you, that is entirely possible as long as you find an Ashes of War that works for your preferred weapon. This opens a whole new way combat can play out in both PvE and PvP.

My favorite change to the formula is with the Flask system formally known as Estus. You are given a certain number of flasks at the start of the game that can be allocated to your preference to either heal HP or FP. Let’s say you start with 6 flasks total, you can allocate 2 to restore your FP while the remaining 4 restore your HP. These flasks are refilled by resting at a Site of Grace (Bonfire) and can even be refilled by killing groups of enemies! I loved the fact that I can clear a small batch of enemies and regain a charge of my flasks to continue without having to rest at a Grace and trigger the respawning of all my enemies. This rewards you for your playstyle which is a fantastic addition.

Perhaps one of the most interesting additions that can be missed in certain scenarios is the summoning bell. Throughout your adventure, you will come across spirits such as a pack of wolves, a giant jellyfish, or even some heroes that are summoned at a moment’s notice with a bell that you can obtain very early in the game. These spirits are valuable allies in your fight, as they can be summoned in almost any scenario and can even be a great distraction for bosses you encounter. This is a welcome addition for players that want to have some assistance but might not want to have someone else join their game.

One thing that surprised me most with my time so far in Elden Ring has been the world itself. The sheer size of the map is stunning, and you can go almost anywhere right from the start of the game. I spent over 30 hours exploring the map before I even took my first step into the castle of the first major story boss. On alternate characters, I was able to go directly to locations of items that I have found on my prior characters to give them a head start and advantage in those playthroughs.

The amount of freedom is unparalleled in a Souls game and it is going to be interesting to see how future entries to the lineup will change with this addition. This has also made it one of the most accessible Souls games in certain respects because if you run into a boss fight that is simply too hard, you can turn around and go exploring other areas of the map, find new equipment, and come back a few hours later and make progress.

The main difference between the grinding of previous entries and Elden Ring is the fact that the grind is rarely boring. In the past, you may have felt like you were killing the same enemies over and over again to get enough Souls to level up a few times. In Elden Ring, you are making progress while grinding, exploring vast new areas, and unlocking new portions of the map all while facing new enemies while doing so.

I have played Elden Ring now on both the PC and the PS5. There are some technical issues that are on the PC version making the PS4/5 version better in my opinion. Of course FromSoftware is working on patching these issues and my primary character I have been playing is on the PC, so the technical issues aren’t ruining my experience by any stretch.

These issues are things such as screen tearing and stuttering with minor frame rate dips. Being locked at 60 FPS on PC is also seen as an issue by some, but I haven’t minded as I’m primarily a console player for Souls games, so I am used to it. Other complaints that I have read are issues with key bindings for mouse and keyboard players, and resolution support for ultrawide displays. I would highly recommend using a controller on the PC as the controls are more suited to using them. If these are deal breakers for you, I would wait for a patch because these issues exist for PC players.

When I say that Elden Ring has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time, I am not exaggerating that fact. It has all the best elements of my favorite games in one package. As this is a review in progress I have spent about 80 hours between different characters to try and get a feel for different playstyles and test the freedom. It is entirely possible to create your route of progression in the game depending on your skills. On one character for instance I was able to skip the first boss and go to the second and then come back to the first.

For my main playthrough, I am about 60 hours in, and I would hazard a guess that I am about 50%-60% through with the story, but there is just so much to do and to explore that I feel like I could spend another 80 hours before I want to see the credits scroll. I just simply want to find everything I can. Elden Ring is a game that you aren’t rushing to see the ending. You will want to take your time exploring the absolute gem that FromSoftware has created.

Typically, I don’t review games that I haven’t finished the main story for but with Elden Ring, I know that story for me will easily take a lot more time than my normal playthroughs, but it’s just so good that I wanted to share my opinion on the game so far. I will be updating this review in the coming weeks to go into more details regarding the storyline as I see the ending(s) and go into more details about any major differences from my feelings after the first 60 hours in.

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